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The Union Budget for the financial year 2023-24 features many growth-oriented aspects that are essential, but it doesn’t create sufficient conditions to maintain high economic growth in the country. The budget hopes to strike a balance between the aspirations of the youth, which are a large segment of the population, and the world economy which is grappling with more geopolitical problems than opportunities. While Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a sweeping statement about this being the first budget for “Amrit Kaal”, it doesn’t instil confidence as there have been several gaps between the promises of the government and its achievements in the past many years. Particularly, when it comes to youth skilling, the foundations are still weak for it to produce any dividends.

In her first address to Parliament, President Droupadi Murmu mentioned “youth” seven times but did not utter “skill” even once. The President mentioned only that youth were a large chunk of the population and had the potential power to enhance the growth of the country. It shows the deep disconnect between the union government’s promises and actions, and how it just ends up being lip service.

A slew of initiatives has been announced in the budget for youth skilling, including
a) access to advanced skill training for traditional artisans and craftspeople
b) 150 new nursing colleges for health education
c) Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana 4.0 to train lakhs of youth within the next three years for international opportunities
d) 30 Skill India International Centres to be set up across different States
e) a unified Skill India Digital Platform for enabling demand-based formal skilling and linking with employers including MSMEs
f) facilitating access to entrepreneurship schemes and sector-specific skilling to achieve objectives of the ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ initiative.

However, it would take years for these initiatives to realistically help the youth, whose time and energy are precious for the growth of the nation.

It is imperative to build a strong institutional mechanism for youth skilling by integrating mainstream education with skill-building to enable youth to access either productive employment opportunities or undertake self-employment with financial assistance to pursue entrepreneurship in the markets.

Millions of students of school-going age who either quit school after class 8 are unable to access hands-on skills training to equip themselves to demand better wages in the markets and are the most vulnerable labour force of the future. Structural institutional initiatives such as National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) to bridge the gaps among schools, colleges, and vocational training institutions are yet to reach the ground level.

As per latest information (Lok Sabha question answered On 14.03.2022 regarding “Placement in Skill India Mission”), under PMKVY 1.0, a total of 18.04 lakhs persons were enrolled and trained, out of which 13.32 lakhs persons were given skills certificates. However, only 2.53 lakhs persons, or 19% of the trained persons were placed with jobs

Weak institutional delivery systems at the national, state, and block or district levels are the cause. Dynamic emerging new technologies and tools if used in institutional delivery mechanisms can help the youth. For instance, under the PMKVY 3.0, a bottom-up approach with District Skill Committees (DSCs) was formed with the task of identifying local demand to strengthen the local skill capability including traditional arts and crafts. But the results largely failed even in a most industrialised state like Tamil Nadu.

In 2015, the Skill India Mission was launched to train 400 million youths in various skills but the achievements so far are encouraging. PMKVY 1.0 was implemented during the year 2015-16, PMKVY 2.0 in 2016-2020 and PMKVY 3.0 in 2021-22. The performance is mixed and has not progressed in line with the vision of the 2015 launch. According to the National Skills Development Corporation’s record, as of 6th February 2023, a total of 1.42 crore persons were enrolled, 1.37 persons were trained, 1.24 crore persons were assessed and 1.10 crore persons (77.46%) were issued certificates.

As per latest information (Lok Sabha question answered On 14.03.2022 regarding “Placement in Skill India Mission”), under PMKVY 1.0, a total of 18.04 lakh persons were enrolled and trained, out of which 13.32 lakh persons were given skills certificates. However, only 2.53 lakh persons, or 19% of the trained persons were placed with jobs.

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The placement had improved 52.8% in the PMKVY 2.0, in which a total of 41.08 lakh persons enrolled, out of which 38.11 lakh persons were trained, 31.84 lakh persons were given skill certificates, and only 18.05 lakh persons (52.8%) of them were actually placed in jobs. However, placement of persons under PMKVY 3.0 declined to 20.5%. Under the scheme, a total of 4.98 lakh persons were enrolled, out of which 4.45 lakh persons were trained, 1.72 lakh persons received certificates and only 15,450 people got placement.

The huge fluctuations witnessed in all aspects such as enrolment, training, certification, and placements are due to enormous corruption, malpractices, and duplication of enrolling candidates at the training institutional level across the country. For example, the number of skill training institutions taking part in the programmes has declined over the years. There were 12,218 skill training centres under PMKVY 1.0, which reduced to 9,030 during the PMKVY 2.0 and it further fell to 683 during the PMKVY 3.0.

Overall, placement of trained youth under different phases of PMKVY was 20.3% in 2015-16, 13.2% in 2016-17, 38.2% in 2017-18, 52.9% in 2019-20, 44.6% in 2020-21 and 70.6% in 2021-22. In the case of Tamil Nadu, placements stood at 37.7% in 2015-16, 44.1% in 2016-17, 56.4% in 2017-18, 82.5% in 2019-20, 42.6% in 2020-21 and 53.4% in 2021-22.

There were 12,218 skill training centres under PMKVY 1.0, which declined to 9,030 during the PMKVY 2.0 and it further declined to 683 during the PMKVY 3.0 period

Thus, the launch of the PMKVY 4.0 would not really help with youth skilling, as their population is projected to come down. The youth population, aged 24-29 years, is estimated to decline by 10% in the next 15 years from 53% in 2021 to 43% in 2036 as per the report, Youth in India 2022. Once they cross the age of 40 with no skills, there goes the advantage of having a much-touted youth population.

Unless both union and state governments make concrete efforts to equip the large youth population with employable skills, the country will not be able to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.

(The author is an economist and public policy expert)

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